This was my first meeting. She still has her winter coat here in the early Spring:
I was just learning about donkeys, and I was mostly ignorant about their care, their need for equine companionship, and their history of being maligned. So, I gave her a pat and took lots of photos.
On my next visit, a few weeks later, I'd been reading up in The Donkey Companion about the importance of hoof care, and I noticed that Opal's hooves were overgrown... it was clear that she hadn't seen a farrier in at least four or five months.
I made the mistake of mentioning it to one of the workers at the farm. Oops. Did I have two heads?
For the next eight months, I visited frequently, hoping to see her hooves trimmed. I left a copy of The Donkey Companion in the office, hoping someone would look it over. Meanwhile, Opal had lost her winter coat (I'd been brushing her during my visits), and seemed to be living contentedly with the sheep.
The truth is, most farmers don't know much about donkeys. This farmer inherited Opal when he took over the management of the farm. I was told, initially, that she was sequestered in a stall, away from other animals and moving her in with the sheep gave her some company. The other part of the truth was that she was going to be a guard Donkey. This means she'll always live with sheep; she won't have a donkey friend, no one will teach her to lead, and there will be no children riding her.
Yesterday, I left the shop early, between snow storms, to visit Opal. I was trying to see her hooves, which were hidden by all the hay, but with a handful of Timothy Hay pellets, I was able to lift her front leg and LO! and BEHOLD! her hooves were beautifully trimmed.
I've had to accept Opal's situation. She IS going to be happier with other creatures, rather than in a stall by herself. She WILL get her hooves taken care of, even if it isn't on a schedule I like. If I can still brush her through the fence and give her little crumbs of hay pellets, feel her soft muzzle on my palm, I'll be grateful. Here she is in a joyful roll last summer. My favorite photo of her!